A Big Reason Businesses Can’t Hire Teenagers

Posted on June 11, 2010

RE: ‘Why not employ an eager teenager this summer?’ June 7 issue

Teens will have a tough time finding a job this summer and one often overlooked reason are wage mandates that create a barrier between teens who want to work, and employers who want to hire.

Between January 2007 and January 2009, Arizona’s minimum wage was increased 40 percent. Recent research from Ball State University attributes the loss of 310,000 teenage part-time jobs to the 40 percent federal wage hike between July 2007 and July 2009.

Minimum wages raise the cost of hiring and training entry-level employees like teens. Employers respond by cutting staff hours or positions and are forced to turn to more cost-effective alternatives like automation and self-service.

These unemployed teens are deprived of the valuable invisible curriculum that comes from reporting to a supervisor, showing up on time, and working with others as part of a team. Research from Northeastern University found that teens without job opportunities – especially economically disadvantaged teens – are also more likely to drop out of high school or get tangled up in the criminal justice system.

Michael Saltsman, Research Fellow Employment Policies Institute Washington, D.C.